Last fall, I had the opportunity to attend the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. The theme last year was “The Tension is Good.” At that point, I had no idea what it meant. I heard some speakers refer to it a bit, but still wasn’t entirely sure what it was all about. A year later, I think I’m beginning to understand what they were talking about. In everything in life, there is a tension that exists. With every job, there is a tension between how much you should work in order to provide for yourself or your family and how much time one you should spend with your family. With every hobby, there’s the tension between how much practice to put in and how much time should be invested in other things. With church activities, there is the tension between how much to invest and pour into the ministry and how much to rest in the Lord. All of these tensions are necessary because they ensure that a good balance exists in different areas of our lives.
My question is this: How do you find out what that tension should be and live your life accordingly?
I’ve been wrestling with this a lot lately. I will be done with college in May and everybody is asking me what I’m going to “do with my life.” To be honest, I think that’s the dumbest question ever. I mean, seriously – does ANYBODY know what they want to do with their lives? I have friends who have been in the workplace for many years and they still don’t know what they want to “do with their lives.” I know that that question translates to “What job field do you see yourself in? Do you have anything lined up post-graduation? If you had to choose one place, where do you want to be stuck until you die?” Okay, so it’s never been asked quite like that, but that’s kind of the point of the question. I usually make up some really bombastic answer (kind of like that word – too big for its meaning – especially since you had to look it up) and they nod their heads and smile.
But if I was honest, I would say that honestly, I have no idea where I want to be job-wise. I don’t even see myself in one job for more than five years (watch this blog come back to haunt me when Mr. Future Boss starts Googling my life history). But if I had to be stuck somewhere, it would be next to Jesus. And for me, the closest thing to that on earth is in relationship with others.
I am passionate about relationships. I LOVE people so much. I love hearing their stories, love talking with them about the everyday ups and downs, I love hearing about their families, their passions, their interests, what makes them tick, how they perceive life – I LOVE people. I love having conversations with people. Be it a stranger on a bus or train, a long-time friend, a new friend – I LOVE talking to people and investing in their lives. I really enjoy being with big groups of people, but there’s something about spending time with someone one-on-one or in small groups that really gives you awesome insight to a person. I don’t love people like some people love science – my point is not to study their behavior like an analytical psychologist. I just really enjoy people and feel like God has blessed me with love for so many people in my life. Coffee dates are my favorite thing, even though I don’t drink much coffee. That or walking and talking or just hanging on someone’s couch and talking life with people.
So how does this relate to the “tension” I described earlier? Here it is: I have been wondering if we’re doing it all wrong. The workplace has become our priority in life. We need to feed and clothe our families, so we work and we become defined by our careers. Your job becomes a label – a box that people put you in – and if you don’t stick with the same job for a long time, something is weird about you. People secretly wonder what your problem is.
When I read about the Church Paul described in his letters in the New Testament, I wonder where we got the idea that our jobs are the most important thing in life. I get it – we need to make money to survive. It’s true. But are we sacrificing spiritual survival for physical survival, at times, with this mindset? I get much more joy out of talking to and relating to people and praying with them and diving into Scripture with them than anything else in life. And that is what God calls us to as disciples – we are to be the “hands and feet” – and that doesn’t just mean running around like crazy on a Sunday to literally use our hands and feet for service. That is included, I think, but that is not what Jesus was talking about.
So here I am. Returning to that question. I am taking a full load of classes, working 3 jobs, and volunteering at my church on Sundays. I love each of these aspects of my life and aside from a few hours of extra sleep, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve noticed, though, that I always put relationships first. Regardless of the cost (which is usually sleep). And the thing is, I never regret it. I honestly believe people are the MOST important thing on earth. We are made in the image of God. And to think that one day I could get to Heaven and God could look at my life and say, “Where were you when your brother was in trouble?” and I would say “Umm…I think I was writing a paper then. Or maybe I was reading a book. Or I might have been napping….” scares me. What if my priorities are way out of line?
The world tells me that success is a great job, a healthy family, fame, notoriety, and achievement. The Word of God tells me that worldly success does not matter – that the only thing that matters is living a life fully consecrated to the God of my salvation. And I think that means investing in His people as the disciples were called to invest in the people in their lives during the time of Jesus’ life.
I think of my dear friend Angel0 – a passionate disciple of Christ who devotes so much of his time and energy to merely engaging in conversations with people. Believers, nonbelievers, strangers, friends – doesn’t matter. He engages with them and always brings God into the conversation. He works, but he would probably tell you that his life isn’t glamorous, at least not in material means. But his life is RICH and FULL because God supplies his every need and gives him the strength, energy, love, and grace to witness to others and pout into them as people.
We are called to love God. And we are called to love others. My heart is BURSTING with love for others. Sometimes I think it’s going to burst or just scare people because we aren’t used to letting ourselves be loved. I didn’t used to be so bold about my love for my friends. But I read something once that made me think twice. If something happened to me or to one of my friends or even a stranger, I would hate for them to continue to live without knowing how much they are LOVED and VALUED by me and by my Heavenly Father. So now I tell my friends that I love them. Vulnerability has always been a challenge for me so sometimes I compromise, but that’s something I don’t ever want to compromise on.
There are too many kids who never hear the words “I love you.” And then they grow into adults who never know if they are loved or not. Let’s appreciate and love each other and not be afraid to say it! God speaks of His love for us SO many times in the Bible. And He commands us to love others so many times in the Bible. Yes, this can totally be through our actions. But why not through our words as well?
I’m not going to answer my question, because I don’t know the answer. But these are some thoughts that I have been chewing on for a while and I wanted to share them so I could clarify them to myself and also to see if anyone has any better insight on this.
If you are reading this, I am grateful and humbled. If God can use my ramblings to impact your life in any way, blessed be His name – and may He be glorified. If they are merely words on a page, still, blessed be His name – and all glory to Him.
Peace and love, to you, dear reader,